In 2009, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Agriculture, having visited Socfin’s LAC plantation in Liberia, decided to ask the Socfin Group to develop a project in Sierra Leonean territory.

Slash-and-burn cultivation is an ancestral practice in Sierra Leone. However, it requires suitable land rotation in order to avoid soil depletion; unfortunately, the needs of the ever growing population mean that proper crop rotation is no longer possible. As a result, the country is experiencing the progressive degradation of its soils. This loss of soil productivity is leaving it increasingly dependent on imports of basic commodities.

In seeking the Socfin Group’s help a few years ago, the Minister of Agriculture was aiming to reduce this dependence and modernise agricultural techniques in the country.

The partners agreed on a suitable proper site, and it was decided that there should be a bottom-up consultation process with the stakeholders: growers, landowners, traditional leaders, community leaders and so on. After the formal agreement with the majority of the population had been gained, an area of 18 000 hectares was defined for the project, of which 12 500 hectares have been planted.

Right from the start, an agreement was made: plots of land would be preserved around existing villages and dwellings to allow homeowners who did not wish to be involved in the project to keep their land.

The cooperation established between the government and the Socfin Group made it possible to introduce new agricultural techniques on Sierra Leonean soil, and thus facilitated the implementation of a soil refertilisation programme. Amongst other things, this included the introduction of ground-cover plants on depleted soils and capacity-building measures for farmers.

Once the project had been established, agricultural work began in 2011 with the creation of nurseries and the gradual replanting of 12 500 hectares of palm groves. The first palm fruit bunches were harvested in 2015. Ultimately, the plantation will be the leading palm oil supplier on the Sierra Leonean market and among the largest employers in the country.

Drawing on its recognised experience in Africa, the Socfin Group is involved, through its project in Sierra Leone, in providing material, human and financial support to the Malen Chiefdom region and the surrounding peoples.

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